A lonely young girl meets a mysterious boy on a mountain. When he disappears into a world beyond, the girl follows him and eventually discovers things about both her past and the boy’s.
Last year, I saw Your Name, and was absolutely floored by it. The film was like nothing else I’d ever experienced; the animation was rich with color and detail, the characters were funny and deep, the story itself started as something humorous and in the end left me almost crying. Your Name ended up being one of my favorite movies of last year, and one of my favorite anime of all time. So, justifiably, I went into this film with relatively high expectations, and as a result, I was slightly disappointed.
(SOME SPOILERS IN THE FOLLOWING PARAGRAPH)
Asuna Watase is a lonely elementary school girl living in a small village. One afternoon, she meets a boy named Shun who is staying near a mountain that she frequently hikes. The boy is standoffish at first, but eventually warms to Asuna. Asuna’s mother tells her that Shun ended up falling from a cliff and dying, but Asuna doesn’t believe her. She goes to the mountain to find Shun but is instead confronted by a creature and a boy that looks like Shun, but doesn’t seem to recognize her.
Don’t get me wrong; this movie has a lot of things going for it. I loved the melancholic, almost lazy piano music that plays for the majority of the film- it creates a magical atmosphere that works wonders with the animation style and overall arc of the story. The way that characters and creatures are designed is memorable, and sometimes it’s even a little bit frightening and bizarre, but that totally worked for me. The landscapes are beautiful and sometimes strange (though we never quite reach the level of artistic mastery that came with Your Name). There were some parts where I really felt for the characters, and then there were other times when I was quite bored.
The biggest problem with this film turns out to be its length. In the beginning, Asuna (our protagonist) takes a long time showing us the world around her. We meet her cat Mimi, she goes to school, we learn how lonely she is (though we don’t really know why), and she plays with a weird music receiver that uses a crystal to tune. Some of the fight scenes between the guardians (they’re called Quetzacoatl’s, but there’s no way I’m typing that out every time) are creative and really interesting, as are the designs of the creatures themselves. All these things are cool to watch, but it takes forever to get there. I didn’t actually look at my phone during this movie (which is a good sign), but I’d estimate that it took nigh forty-five minutes for Asuna to actually go beyond her ordinary world. I was interested to see where the plot was going and intrigued by the animation, but had I not seen Your Name first, had I not known what this director was capable of, I probably would’ve grown bored of this film and turned it off. As it was, I’m glad I finished it, because in the later half of the second act the film really starts to pick up.
For a while, especially in the first half of the second act, I was really concerned that this film would turn into an episodic monster fight film. A lot of anime movies have these kinds of episodic parts- where characters have certain creatures they have to overcome, and then they do so after minor setbacks… It’s a trope that kind of brings down the anime genre, and there were two or three scenes in a row that followed that cliché here; those scenes didn’t work for me.
There were some inklings of greatness here and there. Some of the scenes towards the end actually worked quite well; I loved the few subtle twists that had only been slightly hinted at earlier, and I also loved seeing some of the shooting star/ northern lights animation stuff appear in this film, which was mastered in Your Name. This movie has some really good parts in it, but it could’ve been great had they cut it by thirty minutes.
This isn’t a great movie, but neither is it a bad movie. It is one that is right in the center of the spectrum; it’s got good and bad, and as a result, I feel tepid about it. If you want to see this movie, do so. There’s some great animation, some cool ideas, but overall, there are better movies to watch. I’m still fascinated by this director, so more than likely I’ll get around to reviewing his most popular other films, 5 Centimeters Per Second, and I’ll definitely want to review Your Name.
Anyways, check back for those or let me know what you think about this. I’d love to hear your thoughts!
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